Thursday, June 20, 2024

Banking on Mainframes

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Financial transactions firm Nexxar was facing integration issues that anyone navigating a recent merger or acquisition knows all too well.

And the company has been on a tear, snapping up high-transaction financial services providers, that while not quite the Citibanks and JP Morgans of the world, they are nonetheless proving to be lucrative for the firm. Of course, that all hinges on being able to fold all of their inner workings onto a centralized platform.

Headquartered in Paramus, NJ, with a senior management base in Belgium, Nexxar Group handles transactions for banks and financial firms that do business across borders. Additionally, the firm provides money transfer services, as well as money orders, check cashing and bill payment. This segment of the financial services spectrum is dominated by Western Union and the US Post Office with thousands of small, independent businesses picking up the slack.

It’s these businesses that Nexxar has been acquiring and rolling into their portfolio to offer as private label offerings. But that poses a challenge.

How do they fold this jumble of platforms into the core business? Nexxar Group, Managing Director and CIO, Wim De Ridder says his IT strategy is now anchored by a mainframe.

“All those companies need to be integrated on one platform,” says de Ridder, adding that his company required “rich functionality on the platform side.” To accomplish this, Nexxar invested in an IBM system z9 Business Class system.

Aimed at businesses with growing or mid-range processing requirements, z890’s successor, System z9 Business Class is available in 2 flavors, the R07 and S07, both offering seven main processors (Nexxar’s houses six). Specs here, but in short, the S07 offers a bump in I/O and capacity, plus it offers a cleaner upgrade path to its big brother, the z9 Enterprise Class. z9 systems start at “around” $100,000.

As a “processor for other companies,” his customers have stringent performance and security needs, says de Ridder. And time, as always, is a factor.

z9 makes it a snap, according to the firm. Instead of the weeks it takes for most integration projects, de Ridder’s team can speed the process while maintaining data integrity by “creating a logical partition, establish role based security and segment their data in a matter of days.” Nexxar’s system primarily runs Websphere and Linux.

But virtualization is only part of the reason why Nexxar went with the z9. Capacity planning and disaster recovery also played a major role.

Describing the “business of money transfers as seasonally driven,” Nexxar was wary of pouring money into a system that would only run at full tilt when activity spiked but run relatively underused during lulls. While the co-processors are physically installed, Nexxar only pays for the added capacity it uses during predictably busy periods, such as the holidays, and then dials it back down when things level off with a simple call to IBM under its Capacity on Demand program.

The system, for its part, streamlines management automatically. “The z9 balances the capacity, including processes running and guest servers in the Linux environments,” says de Ridder.

“One of the other reasons we went with the z is the simplification of disaster recovery,” adds de Ridder. IBM offered the firm a service that was hard for the growing yet budget-conscious firm to resist. Instead of purchasing another z9 as a backup, and hence doubling their costs, IBM hosts a backup at one of their sites. Should trouble befall Nexxar’s data center, IBM takes it upon itself to keep the business up and running until things return to normal.

Hoping to dispel the notion that mainframes are only for mega-corporations or cutting-edge science, IBM is making its case to businesses weaned on commodity hardware. Nexxar, for instance, is on track to save 30 percent a year in management and operational costs by investing in a System z9.

For Nexxar, at least, that’s 30 percent they can put back into their business.

This article was first published on

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